3 Ways to Set Boundaries and Build Connection to Support Positive Behaviour

Persuading young children to listen to us and follow directions can be really tough! When we feel as though our children are not listening, it can lead to us feeling frustrated. That’s why I’ve invited Rebecca A. Weiner, M.Ed from Learn Play Grow  Consulting to write this guest post. Rebecca outlines 3 Ways that we can set boundaries and build connection in order to support positive behaviour. Here’s what she has to say:
 ‘Connection comes before compliance. Building connection is more empowering and efficient than trying to convince them to do something or demanding compliance.’

Why Connection is Important

mother and daughter

Connecting is powerful, because relationships are the context for all learning. Building connection creates context for the content we want to teach our children and students.

Connections and relationships have cycles of rupture and repair. What’s most important is that children feel seen, heard, understood, and supported.

Building connection, rather than trying to convince or demanding compliance, is the most effective way to prevent rupture and support repair.

Breaking free from Convincing and Demanding

Trying to convince your children to do something or demanding compliance does not teach them how to accept boundaries and follow through. Instead, it exhausts you, your children’s trust in you, and their belief in their own capabilities.

You can break free from convincing and demanding by focusing on giving your children the structure and support they need to do their best.

Building connection through clear and consistent expectations and with loving limits empowers children to do their best and grow from experience.

Three Strategies in Action:

mother and daughter cuddling

Trying to convince a 2 year old he does not want candy because he will get a belly ache later and a cavity in 6 months creates a power struggle rather than connection. Holding space for the 2 year old’s feelings while holding a boundary to keep his body safe prevent a power struggle and build connection.


Is a great strategy for holding space and holding boundaries. You could say to the 2 year old “You are sad because you really want candy now. AND it’s almost time for dinner.” You are saying yes to his feelings, which are very real to him, and holding a real boundary.

Structured Choice

Allows you to hold the boundary while giving your child an element of choice. In this case, your could tell the 2 year old “If you are hungry before dinner, your choices are carrots or apple.”

When cleaning up, doing homework, or getting in pyjamas are contingent on you convincing your children or demanding compliance, then they likely won’t happen, at least not consistently.

When/Then Statements

Create contingencies rather than try to convince. Here are some examples:

    • When you clean up the dinosaurs, then you can choose another game”
    • When your math worksheet is done, then you may watch one episode” 
    • When your pyjamas are on, then we can read two bedtime stories.”

Support and Accountability

Demands are desperate. When people threaten children or demand their compliance, they have already given over power to struggle, not connection.

Accountability is love in action. Providing structure and support helps children show respect and do their best. Investing in support and accountability up front will save you a lot of struggle later.

So, if you “have to” tell your child eight times, try getting your child’s attention before giving a direction and be prepared with support and accountability to follow through the first time. You can say “When you are dressed for school, then you may play on your iPad” AND provide support and accountability by holding the iPad while they get dressed.

About Rebecca A. Weiner, M.Ed.

Rebecca A. Weiner, M.Ed. is a dynamic educator and creator of Learn Play Grow. She helps young children with diverse abilities and their parents, teachers, and schools connect, communicate, and learn with confidence. Rebecca specializes in play-based learning, parent coaching, early communication and developmental support, and consulting and inclusion support in schools.

Rebecca has 15+ years of experience teaching early childhood education and consulting with families, therapists, schools, and community organizations. She earned a master’s degree in education and completed a fellowship in Leadership Education for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND).  Rebecca is a certified Positive Discipline parent educator, DIR Floortime practitioner, and early communication professional trained and licensed by the Hanen Centre.

Readers can join the Learn Play Grow  newsletter and get their  free Power of Play Guide. Rebecca also has two guides available to purchase, you can find out more here. 


Like This Post?

Check out the following guest posts for more parenting advice:

How to Handle Toddler Aggression

How to Address Sibling conflict

Helping Young Children with Anxiety

Rebecca. A Weiner M.Ed
an image of This Playful Home founder, Sian Thomas. The photo includes a photo of her daughter when she was around 18 months old

I’m Siân (rhymes with yarn), a play advocate, proud parent to three, and former teacher. My mission is to infuse more joy and less overwhelm into the lives of parents. Discover play-based activities with me that not only make learning FUN but also forge deep connections with your young learners, creating memories to cherish forever.